07 May 2008

Dorothy and the Wicked Witch

The most interesting narrative innovation in David Hutchison's Oz: The Manga is how it portrays and uses L. Frank Baum's character the Wicked Witch of the West.

This is not the dried-up, eyepatched crone that W. W. Denslow drew, or the hook-nosed green hag played by Margaret Hamilton in the MGM movie. Hutchison draws a youthful-looking Witch, with her hair over one eye like Veronica Lake.

In the original Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch is basically rattling around in her castle on her own. Baum narrated her thoughts, but the comics form prefers drama and dialog, so Hutchison beefs up those scenes by giving the Witch an evil counselor named Nestred. And once she has people, she seems less alone and even more formidable.

But the most interesting touch in this adaptation is Hutchison's strong signals that in killing the Wicked Witch, however inadvertently, Dorothy has become more like her. She puts on a darker dress. The magic cap that calls the Winged Monkeys isn't a cloth cap, as in Denslow's illustrations, but a martial helmet.

When this Dorothy returns to the Emerald City, the Wizard orders his Soldier to send her away. The Soldier answers: "Well, I would, but the girl scares me... (I dare say she looks like the Wicked Wi--)"

And indeed, this Dorothy Gale should scare any humbug.

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